“The S5 presents draft resolution on the Improvement the Working Methods of the Security Council” by Mie Hansen

Reference: Center of UN Reform

“All expressions of opinion in this publication are solely those of the author and not of the Center.”

On 4 April 2012 the S5 (Jordan, Liechtenstein, Costa Rica, Singapore and Switzerland) presented a draft resolution on improving the working methods of the Security Council . At the meeting the S5 called for the General Assembly to take a stand to on the issue and suggested 16 May as a possible date for a vote. This article provides a summary of the proposal and the meeting held on it.

The Ambassador of Switzerland opened the meeting with a Statement of the S5 presenting the draft resolution and the objectives of the S5 for advocating for an improvement in the working methods of the Security Council. Improved working methods of the Security Council would benefit both the Council itself and the wider UN membership, the S5 said. It would create a better understanding in the general membership of the Council’s decisions and ensure better interaction between the Council and the other main bodies of the UN. A better interaction between the Council and the wider membership would result in better decisions and therefore in more efficient and effective work of the Council. Its actions would be better prepared, better understood, politically better supported and thus better implemented. The S5 stressed that the draft respects the competencies and roles of the General Assembly and the Security Council and recognizes the Security Council as master of its own procedures and working methods. The S5 also said that the draft is without prejudice to decisions on comprehensive Security Council reform but unlike the comprehensive reform the draft resolution does not require Charter amendments.

After the presentation of the draft resolution, all in all 17 Member States, besides the S5, took the floor.

In summary, the P5 (except the United Kingdom who did not speak) all expressed their opposition to the draft resolution, though France seemed more open to it than China, the United States and Russia. China stressed that the five issues of Security Council reform should be dealt with together and that piecemeal approaches should be avoided in order to gather the broadest possible support. China underlined the work that the Security Council is doing itself to improve its working methods and said that it believed that the Council was willing to listen to suggestions from the outside, but tabling a proposal like this, was not the way forward. The United States asked why the S5 chose to present the proposal outside the intergovernmental negotiations and also said that it would appreciate more info on why the S5 circulated the proposal under article 115 instead of article 122. The US stressed that it was open to suggestions but at the same time underlined that the Charter stipulates that the Council decides its own procedures. This was echoed by Russia, who also stressed that a lot of improvements have already taken place. Russia stated that it did not support a piecemeal approach. Like Russia, France stressed that the Council had already done a great deal to improve its working methods and said that there were other ways forward than creating a resolution in the General Assembly telling the Security Council how to improve its working methods. Finally, France declared itself open to dialogue with the S5 on this issue.

The G4 (Japan, India, Germany and Brazil) expressed a general support for the draft resolution, stressing that the short G4 draft resolution on Security Council reform also highlights reform of the working methods of the Council as an important element of the overall reform. It appeared that the G4 members were supporting the effort to move the issue of working methods from the forum of the intergovernmental negotiations, though at the same time stressing that a comprehensive reform of the Security Council includes a reform of the Council’s composition.

Portugal, Slovenia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Turkey generally responded positively to the proposal, though some expressed certain reservations. Slovenia recognized the past efforts of the Council itself to reform its working methods but believed that there was still room to do more and therefore expressed its support for the S5 proposal. Portugal who, as a current non-permanent member of the Council, has been involved in the efforts in the Council to improve its working methods said that it thought that the S5 proposal was complimentary to what the Council was doing. New Zealand stressed that while reform of the working methods of the Security Council was an achievable part of UN reform, it should be an integrated part of the intergovernmental negotiations, not dealt with as a separate issue. New Zealand said it would support the proposal to reform the working methods of the Council when the time was ready. Jamaica extended its general support to the resolution but at the same time said that, in principle, the issue should be dealt with in the forum of the intergovernmental negotiations. Further, Jamaica a suggested enhanced language on the cooperation between the Security Council and the General Assembly in regard to the Peacebuilding Commission. Saudi Arabia said that the resolution comprised a number of important points.  Australia expressed its support for the draft calling it a logical and common sense approach. Australia underlined that the draft made it clear that the S5 respects the prerogatives of the Council. Turkey said that it was a need to make the Security Council more efficient and effective and said it supported the proposal, but Turkey also stressed that a consensual approach should be followed.

Both Egypt and Pakistan appeared open to being convinced of the S5 proposal, though both Member States preferred a comprehensive approach to Security Council reform. In this regard, Egypt stressed the close link between the five clusters of Security Council reform discussed in the forum of the intergovernmental negotiations. Egypt also asked why the S5 had placed the draft resolution under agenda item 115 which was so broad and not under the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly where the Assembly was already discussing some of the issues included in the draft. Finally, Egypt said that it would have expected stronger language in the draft, especially in regard to the issue of the veto. Pakistan said that it respected the proposal but believed in comprehensive reform and in avoiding confrontation. Pakistan also stressed that increasing the number of permanent members of the Council would not improve the working methods of the Council. Pakistan then asked about the S5 calling the resolution a suggestion – was that all it was, Pakistan asked.

In response to the statements made during the meeting and the questions raised by the various Member States, the S5 took the floor both at the middle and at the end of the meeting. Among other things, Liechtenstein said that it was clear that the Security Council had already improved its working methods. Liechtenstein also underlined that the draft was a suggestion to the Council – it would not be legally binding but have a significant political value, Liechtenstein said. In regard to the question raised by some of the Member States on why the S5 had placed the resolution under agenda item 115 instead of agenda item 122 Costa Rica said that the issue had always been under agenda item 115 and at the same time stressed that there was no contradiction between presenting this resolution under this agenda item and the comprehensive negotiations under agenda item 122. Liechtenstein stressed that while the S5 hoped that the Member States would someday come to an agreement on the question of enlargement of the Council, the S5 would not accept that improvement of the working methods would have to wait for this. Singapore stressed that there was no contradiction between a comprehensive reform and  improving elements of the Council’s working methods and stressed that improving the Security Council working methods might even spur wider reform. Switzerland underlined that the S5 proposal does not require Charter amendments and stressed that the S5 does not favor any of the enlargement proposals.  Switzerland concluded the meeting by saying that the Member States have the opportunity to make a partial reform now – or wait no one knows how long for improving the working methods of the Security Council as part of a comprehensive reform.

“All expressions of opinion in this publication are solely those of the author and not of the Center.”